She called herself a “merchant princess and trafficker in crucifixes.” And so she was, entrepreneur extraordinaire, friend of Dorothy Day, social activist, doyenne of religious books and art in Chicago in the halcyon 1950s and ’60s.
Nina Polcyn Moore, who died February 10 of congestive heart failure at her home in Evanston, Illinois, had a protean personality-serious of intent, merry in mode, generous with time and money, contemporary in thought. Her journalism professor at Marquette University in the 1930s advised students to sparkle when they spoke. In the 2000s, Nina still quoted that advice with approval.
Nina’s personality was shaped by the people she had known. Her father, a railway switchman who admired Eugene Debs, bought her a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica when she was six months old. Her mother, always an example, fed the poor during the Depression. Bishop Bernard Sheil, who hired Nina to be associate director of his Sheil School of Adult Education in Chicago, was a pioneer in interracial justice. Preeminently, Dorothy Day showed Nina how to care for the poor.
Roy Larson, former religion editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, summed up Nina as “indefatigable in her efforts to unite fine taste and deep piety, liturgical devotion and a passion for social justice, tradition, and imagination.”
Nina discovered her true passion early on: serving the poor. As a student at Marquette...